Coach Al Shaw
Coach Al was a basketball legend before we arrived at Williams. He played at U. Mich. before coming to Williams in 1949, and coached until 1973. Appearances in the 1955 and 1962 NCAA tournaments punctuated his early achievements. We learned early not to challenge him to a shooting contest, as he practiced daily and often beat us.
Coach Al was outstanding at game preparation. He traveled all over New England to watch teams play, in the days before film exchanges. After several well-organized practices we generally knew the opposition’s plays cold. On two such scouting trips I found him engaging, caring and fun.
We were a pretty competitive group, but no one wanted to win as much as Coach Al. In the gym he was organized and all business, but sometimes during games his intensity would boil over. His motivation would then lapse into creative sarcasm that was at once harsh and humorous. “________ you aren’t doing much out there but getting a suntan under the lights”, “_______ you are just another pair of shoes out there, play better defense”, or “_________ if I had a gun I’d shoot you” are some of the more memorable.
In my case, these assessments were usually accurate. Fortunately Bobby Coombs was there to soften it by telling us not to worry, it was all about having fun. Bobby was not so intense.
Coach Al’s style was direct and observational, delivered with a distinct nasal twang. When he first saw Pancho our junior year he noticed the new comb-over and said “getting a little thin up there, eh?”
Mrs. Shaw loved us all and several times a year had the team over for ice cream sundaes after a game. He was at his most charming at Marion’s side.
With a record of 16 and 4 we were pretty good, but fell short by not winning the Little 3 outright – we tied with Amherst – a result that he said was like kissing your sister.
His career record was an impressive 302 wins and 171 losses – winning or tying for 18 Little Three titles. At the reunion I would like to schedule a moment for all of us in the 1968 basketball family to go to Lasell, raise a glass and toast a winner – Coach Al Shaw.
Bill Untereker (in collaboration with Jay Healy, Bill Drummond, Tom Ervin, and Pancho Demakis)